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Difficult time for Rangers pitching staff

Difficult time for Rangers pitching staff

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ARLINGTON -- Rangers manager Ron Washington admitted the obvious before Tuesday's game with the Indians.

This is a difficult time for the Rangers pitching staff.

"It is," Washington said. "But some of this is things that are out of our control and we've got to deal with it. The people we're going with the next three days have to pick us up. Once we get [Vicente] Padilla back, we'll be fine. We just have to make it through this stretch."

Padilla is back in Nicaragua on bereavement leave and the Rangers don't know when he'll pitch again. They are hoping this weekend, but have no official word. Instead, A.J. Murray pitches against the Indians on Tuesday, Sidney Ponson pitches with three days' rest on Wednesday and Kevin Millwood, pushed back an extra day because of personal reasons, starts on Thursday.

Right-handers Scott Feldman and Doug Mathis, at least for now, are scheduled to open the three-game series against the Rays this weekend at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

The shuffling of the rotation is only part of the concern for a pitching staff that has a 5.99 ERA in the last 15 games and has allowed 13 runs on 27 hits and 15 walks over the past two games.

"The only thing we have to do better is throw strikes," Millwood said. "When we do that, we have a chance to win. When we don't, we struggle, it's all about throwing the ball over the plate. I don't think anybody is discouraged. We just have to throw strikes. It's not a difficult thing to do."

The bullpen has been especially hit hard over the past two days, allowing 14 runs in 8 1/3 innings. Prior to that, Rangers relievers had allowed just three earned runs in 20 2/3 innings over seven previous games.

Washington's biggest concern is middle relief. The Rangers are set at the back end of the bullpen with C.J. Wilson as the closer, left-hander Eddie Guardado and right-hander Joaquin Benoit as the setup guys and Jamey Wright for the seventh inning.

But the Rangers are taking their lumps in the fourth through sixth innings. Going into Tuesday's game, the Rangers had been outscored a combined 128-80 in the middle three innings.

"Jamey has done a good job," Washington said. "But we need to have more than just Jamey to build a bridge to the back of the bullpen. We need somebody to step up."

The Rangers have used 14 different relievers in a seven-man bullpen this season and they've combined to pitch more innings than any other bullpen in the Major Leagues.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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